Day 13 (Sat, Sep 29): Orvieto/Umbrian Traditions
Views of the Grand Hotel Italia - Orvieto - ★ ★ ★ ★
On to Orvieto
Got the last of our stuff put away, had our final breakfast at the Sangallo Palace. Left our room and went to the lobby lounge and visited with others until it was time to board the bus. We had another beautiful ride to our next destination, this one following the course of the Tiber River to Orvieto.
The streets are too narrow to accommodate buses, so we parked in a piazza just off the above Orvieto map, to the right, next to the funicolare, and then shuttled in vans to the hotel. Karen was in the first group to go, since there was a mostly "ladies first" policy (reminded me of the lifeboat boarding scene in Titanic). While she waited for me, she took a walk through the Saturday market (practically next door), then sat in the hotel's charming lounge and visited with Mary Calabrese.
San Giovenale Around 3:00 we left for a tour, guided by Marco, through the oldest part of Orvieto, along the Via Malabranca. On the way, Marco pointed out houses carved out of stone, which originally were inhabited 4,000 years ago. Our primary destination was the Church of San Giovenale, which in 2004 turned a thousand years old. It has a quadrangular belltower right in front since the land on which it was built (in 1600) has fallen away. The façade is tufa. The tufa columns are strengthened by iron rings. When we were there they were preparing for wedding later that afternoon. In the sacristy we met the priest (seated) and his mother (blue dress - her husband had been a major force in reopening this ancient church some years ago). We continued through the winding streets past houses built of Tufa stone blocks with sweeping views of the countryside below and beyond. On the way, we met a charming and courteous grey and white cat and a yappy little dog (who was very brave behind his wall).
We visited the Porta Maggiore, the old city gate built Etruscan foundations. Then we made the slow walk back up to the Piazza della Repubblica.
Karen and I had a cup of chocolate in a caffé nearby, then went to see the Duomo in the late afternoon light. It is just as remarkable as we had been led to expect by photos and guidebooks. We'll have a guided tour tomorrow afternoon. Returned to the hotel to rest. Had prosecco at the hotel bar with Maria Vali, then joined the group to go to dinner at Ristorante Zeppelin.
Some of us got separated from the rest, and we couldn't figure out how to get to the restaurant after we reached the Piazza della Repubblica. At one point I stopped by a group of four men and asked, in Italian, if they could direct us toward Zeppelin. They laughed and said they were from out of town, too. They were very well dressed, and, when later I told Marco about the encounter, he said they were all crooks from the now-centrist, but formerly Fascist party, in town for a major political convention. Fortunately, Babette remembered and we got there only a few minutes late. Had an enjoyable dinner with Maria, Babette, and Ed and Joyce Tyler (from Portland).